Festival Season by Jodie Yates

Roskilde: The Festival with New Routes at its Roots

"Solidarity has its roots in travel."

Fundamentally encouraging a conscious and progressive way of being, Roskilde is the annual Danish festival that champions an ethos of regeneration for the next generation. Established in 1971 by two school children, this nonprofit festival has cemented itself at the vanguard of the global festival scene, paving the way for innovation in the arts, sustainability, and the treatment of others - all the while holding the youth eternally at its core. With 8 days of music and activism, 32,000 volunteers, and approximately 51 million euros donated to charities since its conception, Trippin took to Roskilde to find out why festival goers could be taking a Danish detour in 2020.

Seemingly at the apex of Danish culture, with Danes of all ages and their Scandi siblings religiously returning each year, Roskilde’s influence transcends the borders of the festival forests. With a strong youth presence at the heart of the festival, it’s of no surprise that the voices of political rebellion and protest seemed as loud as the sounds emanating from the infamous Orange Stage, home to the festival’s headliners since its first year.

From female urinals to ecological sausages and sonic crystals, in a country that is regarded at the forefront of equal rights, Roskilde highlighted a need to go further, filling in the gaps of politicians’ failings. With daily protests and countless round-table discussions on the future of our planet, festival-goers proved that the need for action for our future is unstoppably saturating every element of popular culture, even the stages of Northern Europe’s biggest music festival.

Whilst considering how to rectify the damage of the past, festival staff looked to the future at the predicted impact of 8 days. With 90% of the food on sale organic, the majority of stalls flagged the amount of carbon produced per dish (a fact discovered 5 organic hot dogs later). Additionally a radical environmental plan included all single-use cups banished from the festival grounds in place of washable, reusable cups which could be returned in exchange for cash.

Roskilde’s impact over the generations past and future was evident in festival-goers, volunteers and programmers alike. Selma, one of the many volunteers who was blissfully picking litter on a dazzling Friday morning, was the poster girl for the generational legacy of Roskilde Festival. Despite this being Selma's first time at the festival, her father had been over twenty time, ‘since he was 13, he’s 45 now’. Naturally, Selma gravitated back to Roskilde; ‘this festival was actually where my mum found out she was pregnant with me’.

Swedish volunteer Selma
Swedish volunteer Selma

The world was at the core of the festival’s production in many ways; ecologically and artistically. Roskilde’s myriad of stages provided routes to distant corners of the globe. Only two months after the Danish General Election, which was unsurprisingly shaped by conversations on immigration and identity, Roskilde’s musical programming defied the concept of borders, encouraging a migration of sounds and uniting bodies, cultures and ideas in a time when others aim to divide. Roskilde’s musical line-up was glittered with mould-shattering artists who hold, run and jump with the torch for active social change. From Janelle Monaé to Lizzo, Yves Tumor to SOPHIE, representatives and allies of the subjugated, the cry for mobilisation was deafening.

Yet the desire to reflect the global soundscape in one Danish town is not without the conscious concern of environmental damage. Programmer Peter Hvalkof, whose role is to source non-Western acts, considered the worth of travelling extensive lengths to find his talent with the awareness of ‘how much flying damages the planet’. ‘But Roskilde is the kind of festival that realises that intercultural action is really really important [...]. It is [environmentally] better to bring a band from Ghana to Denmark than to bring 10,000 people to Ghana to see the band’.

Festival Programmer Peter Hvalkof
Festival Programmer Peter Hvalkof

The determinism of Peter to share global sounds on the Danish stage was as powerfully received by festival audiences, who were transported across continents by the likes of Fatoumata Diawara, Ghetto Kumbé, and Gambian Dawda Jobarteh, whose dreamcasting display on the kora - a West African harp - was one of the few 6 out of 6 ratings in the festival’s own review. The soundscape of the week was just one of Roskilde’s inescapable reminders of the importance of migration and the richness of difference.

Reinventing the conversation on politics, protest and rebellion was as inextricable to the festival’s fibre as music and art. On a rainy Thursday morning, a packed-out, transparent tent in the centre of the festival could have been mistaken for hosting one of the hottest acts on the line-up. Breaking through damp but invigorated crowds, activists Emma Holten and Aya Chebbi were at the epicentre. One woman from Denmark, the other from Tunisia, both were united in a Roskildan field with the common goal of reinventing the conversation on global feminist rights - their unitiy feeding that of a hungry audience, ready for change.

Activist Emma Holten
Activist Emma Holten

Declaring the power of the festival as an important space for change and progress, Emma Holten spoke to us on how to use the general state of acceptance and openness for good. ‘What I do like [about Roskilde] is the ability to reach people who would never come to an event otherwise. [...] A lot of people who have started following my work have later told me that they first discovered me at Roskilde’. Despite people letting go of their inhibitions, sometimes to social detriment, the lack of inhibitions can allow ‘a way to talk politics and engage with people in a way that’s more laidback and that can engage people who wouldn’t normally and that’s why it’s important for me to be here and represent our experience in this space’.

And the importance of travel in the battle for equality? ‘Solidarity has its roots in travel’ proudly stated Emma. No clearer was that than at Roskilde Festival. Tents and stages heaving for activists and artists from Mali, Iran and Colombia, tears from the audience when odes to black girl magic are roared, and above all, 130,000 people looking to the future. Roskilde was a reminder that liberation, self-expression and determined activism can co-exist in one space. If solidarity has its roots in travel, those routes lead to Roskilde.


Photography by Bonnie Ophelia

Related:

View all features